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Obama, Hu Pledge Cooperation

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Jobs, climate change, trade and nuclear weapons - today in China, President Obama and China's leader, Hu Jintao, discussed those topics and more. It was a full day for Mr. Obama. In addition to talks, he was formerly welcomed to the ceremony in Beijing. He toured the Forbidden City, which for centuries was home to Chinese emperors and he attended a state dinner.

NPR's Scott Horsley has this report on what Mr. Obama and his Chinese counterpart discussed when they sat down together.

SCOTT HORSLEY: More than halfway through an eight-day tour of Asia, President Obama is still keenly aware that the number one issue back home is jobs. He and President Hu talked about how the U.S. and China can pursue a more balanced economic strategy, so more Americans are working and more Chinese are shopping.

President BARACK OBAMA: A strategy where America saves more, spends less, reduces our long-term debt and where China makes adjustments across a broad range of policies to rebalance its economy and spur domestic demand. This will lead to increased U.S. exports and jobs on the one hand, and higher living standards in China on the other.

HORSLEY: With its rising living standards, China is beginning to consume more energy and produce more greenhouse gases. The U.S. and China agreed to work together on ways to generate cleaner energy. And while next month's climate summit in Copenhagen now seems unlikely to produce a binding agreement on greenhouse gases, Mr. Obama says the U.S. and China hope to lead the way toward solid progress in that direction.

Pres. OBAMA: This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge. And we agreed that each of us would take significant mitigation actions and stand behind these commitments.

HORSLEY: The two leaders also talked about curbing the spread of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran. China is part of the so-called P5+1 group of countries leaning on Iran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful. Negotiations with Iran have so far been unsuccessful though, and the U.S. has said time is running out.

Pres. OBAMA: On this point our two nations and the rest of our P5+1 partners are unified. Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions but if it fails to take this opportunity, there will be consequences.

HORSLEY: Presumably, those consequences would involve stiffer sanctions against Iran. China has been reluctant to go along with that though, and President Hu gave no indication today his position on sanctions has changed.

(Soundbite of bugle)

HORSLEY: Important differences between the U.S. and China were largely glossed over though on this day of ceremonial goodwill. The United States' new ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, has been watching these events since the U.S. and China reopened diplomatic ties some three decades ago. And Huntsman, a Republican, said he was proud of Mr. Obama's performance.

Mr. JON HUNTSMAN (U.S. Ambassador to China): The President stepped off the plane in Shanghai in an environment that I'd have to characterize as being really at an all-time high, a cruising altitude that is higher than any other time in recent memory, thereby able to kind of sail above some of the windsheers and the storms that have typically been part of the bilateral relationship.

HORSLEY: President Obama did raise a few sensitive topics though in his meeting with President Hu. He urged China to stop censoring the Internet to respect the human rights of ethnic and religious minorities and quickly reopen talks with the exiled leader of Tibet.

Pres. OBAMA: While we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have.

HORSLEY: The U.S. and China are scheduled to talk more about human rights at a meeting next year. President Hu said it's only normal the two countries would disagree on some issues. After a day of bridging those barriers, Mr. Obama wraps up his China trip with a visit to the Great Wall tomorrow.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.